CHICAGO — Members of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education
Network, GLSEN, discussed plans to campaign against the Boy Scouts and
to introduce positive discussions about homosexuality into elementary
school classrooms — including kindergarten — during their annual
conference Oct. 6-8 in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights.

This year’s conference theme, “Ending the Hate Beginning in School,”
highlights GLSEN’s contention that teaching pro-homosexual lessons to
young schoolchildren is an appropriate way to combat “homophobia” and
“hatred” directed at homosexuals. But critics like Peter LaBarbera of
the Americans for Truth Project, who led a pro-family coalition
protesting the conference, said GLSEN’s elementary school agenda
“manipulates the minds of impressionable children.”

GLSEN chose the Windy City for its conference to celebrate the
opening of its third regional office here (the organization is based in
New York City). Organizers said around 800 people, including teenage
students, some of whom received financial scholarships, attended the
event.

Scouts out, homosexual clubs in

GLSEN announced plans to pressure schools to lobby school districts
to stop sponsoring the Boy Scouts due to its ban on homosexual
scoutmasters.

“The Boy Scouts can present in someone’s homeroom, they can get the
school lists of students, they can have posters in the halls. … It’s a
very unique, special access that most other clubs do not enjoy, and at
the same time they are a discriminatory club,” said GLSEN public policy
director M.K. Cullen.

LaBarbera countered that homosexual student clubs advocated by GLSEN
nationwide — called Gay-Straight Alliances — often receive much the
same access. Recently, Newton North High School in the Boston suburb of
Newton, Mass. (Rep. Barney Frank’s hometown), celebrated “Bisexual
Awareness Day.” A large banner with the slogan “Celebrate Bisexual
Awareness Day” was hanging over the main entrance of the school until
parents got wind of it and complained to school authorities.

Brian Camenker, president of the Parents Rights Coalition, and whose
daughter attends Newton North, obtained posters detailing alleged
“myths” and “truths” about bisexuality that were posted in the school’s
halls to promote “Bisexual Awareness.” One of the stated “myths” was:
“Bisexual people are promiscuous.” A “truth” was that “Bisexual people
may or may not be attracted to both sexes equally.”

At the anti-GLSEN rally Friday, LaBarbera said: “If you asked parents
whose agenda — GLSEN’s or the Boy Scouts — presents the real threat to
schoolchildren, I think most would say that GLSEN does more harm than
the Boy Scouts ever could.”

Gay elementary social studies

At a workshop at the GLSEN conference titled “Appreciating a Broader
Canvas: How Teachers Understand Gay and Lesbian Content Integration in
Elementary Social Studies,” participants were instructed on ways to
incorporate pro-gay content into family studies for grades K-3 and into
U.S. immigration history for grades 4-6.

The K-3 lesson plan advised educators to help students “recognize
diverse family constellations” by encouraging discussion of individual
family differences and similarities and by showing photographs from a
book entitled “Celebrating Families,” which includes “lesbian
mothers/adopted daughters.”

The lesson plan for grades 4-6 told teachers to integrate
homosexual-affirming curricula into U.S. immigration studies by
interspersing stories of homosexual migration from small towns to large
cities amongst traditional immigration studies of other groups who came
to America to escape persecution, such as the Pilgrims and Chinese and
Hispanic immigrants.

In another session, the film “That’s a Family!” was shown. The movie
is the second by lesbian activists Debra Chasnoff and Helen Cohen,
creators of the controversial film “It’s Elementary,” which showed
instructors giving pro-homosexual classroom lessons to young children.
According to a promotional flyer, “That’s a Family!” is a highly
entertaining half hour documentary for elementary school children,
featuring kids from a wide variety of family structures. Family
portraits include multi-racial families, grandparent-headed families,
gay and lesbian families, single-parent families, and others.”

In addition to segments depicting male and female homosexual
families, the movie also includes a vignette of a family consisting of a
mother and her live-in boyfriend. Traditional, mother-and-father
two-parent families are not shown — except in cases where the
parents have widely divergent ethnic or religious backgrounds. GLSEN
and other homosexual groups are lobbying to get “That’s a Family!” shown
in classrooms across the country.

Gay geometry

At a GLSEN workshop entitled “LGBT Inclusion — Not the Usual
Suspects,” attendees received a handout telling of ways to include
pro-homosexual content in geometry classes by using “known political
symbols (a pink triangle, a yellow star of David, a political flag, the
purple teletubbie) to study shapes. While the geometry lesson is the
goal, the history and political information surrounding the shape is
also introduced.”

Although conference presenters talked about the importance of
disseminating only “age-appropriate” material, all participants,
including dozens of high school-aged kids, had the opportunity to
receive a “Visitor’s Companion” that advertised Chicago’s homosexual
“leather” bars, a sex club and a homosexual bathhouse called
“Steamworks,” which was advertised as a “24-hour men’s gym/sauna.”

LaBarbera questioned why GLSEN’s organizers — already bruising over
the recent arrest of a Chicago GLSEN leader for soliciting sex with an
underage boy (GLSEN expelled the man) — did not take the “simple step
of keeping these gay sex club ads from reaching the teenagers in their
care.”

“For years, GLSEN has claimed to protect ‘at-risk’ kids. But they are
now helping put young teenage boys at risk by uncritically passing out a
gay guide that hawks anonymous sex clubs and ‘leather’ bars in Chicago,”
he said. “This fits into a pattern of GLSEN failing to shield its young
followers from a homosexual male sexual culture that not only tolerates,
but often celebrates promiscuity.” (At last year’s GLSEN conference in
Atlanta, a similar sexually-laden booklet was passed out to attendees.)

Coming out in the classroom

During an all-day seminar Friday called “LGBT [Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and Transgender] Educators Empowerment,” high school teacher
Patricia Nicolari of GLSEN /Connecticut described ways in which
educators can “come out” to students based on a five-stage continuum
ranging from “In [the closet]” to “Out [of the closet].” She described
actions teachers might take during Stage 3, “Gradual Risks,” as follows:

“You wear the jewelry, maybe a little triangle or a little rainbow,
something very subtle. You start with a little sticker on your car or
maybe a few little subtle changes in your classroom that only you think
that you know … maybe talking about your roommate and the things that
you’ve done together, trips that you may have taken. You may bring up
gay news … testing the waters, so to speak. When you test the waters,
you’re trying to gauge the climate in your school. You could do that in
the faculty room. When you bring up gay news, how do the other teachers
react?”

During Stage 4, “Increased Risk-Taking,” Nicolari advised “taking
your partner to school events,” “addressing gay jokes,” and getting the
[school] administration and parents “into place.”

Co-moderator Michael Fiorello discussed the importance of enlisting
“straight allies” such as members of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and
Gays and religious leaders who defend homosexual teachers. He added,
“I’m not trying to stifle minority religious views … but they should
not be the controlling element of curriculum [or of] hiring policy,
firing policy, [or] coaching. …”

Quoting a 1977 textbook she uses in her junior-senior “Family Life”
class, Nicolari said, “In this book, dating will refer to one male and
one female spending time together. So I said [to my class], ‘I feel I
need to point this out. There can be exceptions to that. It can be two
females dating, or two males dating.'”

Unisex bathrooms

Much of the GLSEN conference dealt with assisting high school and
middle school students in launching and improving “Gay-Straight
Alliance” or GSA clubs. These in-school clubs promote the acceptance of
“gay,” bisexual and “transgender” students, and have been the subject of
intense controversy all across the nation. Among the workshops offered
at the GLSEN conference was one entitled, “How to Run a Killer GSA.”

The high level of commitment among GLSEN activists to the “trans”
cause was illustrated by the numerous seminars devoted to “transgender”
issues.

GLSEN held two all-day seminars for youth activists only on Friday.
Among the fliers available outside the seminars was one entitled
“Transgender Issues and Resources.” This publication listed “tips and
suggested activities that can be used to help your GSA become more
gender-inclusive, begin talking about gender and transgender issues, and
make your school more safe for transgender or gender-questioning
students.” One suggested activity was for GSAs to “watch and discuss
movies with gender nonconformist characters,” including “Joan of Arc,” a
film about a Catholic saint. Another suggestion urged GSA members to
“campaign to create a unisex bathroom at your school.”

Combating the ‘right wing’

Another of the all-day seminars was one on “Responding to the Right
Wing.” It was co-hosted by Barbara Miner, managing editor of an ‘urban
educational journal” called “Rethinking Schools.” During the session,
Miner said that the strategy of the “right wing” is “to engender
distrust of public education [and] to batter down the separation of
church and state.” “Right wingers,” she said, are “anti-immigrant” and
“very virulent in their anti-government rhetoric.”

Miner expressed fear of school voucher initiatives, saying, “Vouchers
and private schools will do an end-run around 20 to 30 years of rights
gains.” She said the “right’s” use of the term “high standards” is a
“code for edging out diverse values” and cited the banning of a book
containing information about breast cancer an “example of the
obsessiveness of the religious right.”

Conference presenters and attendees repeatedly stressed the idea that
“respect for others” must supersede private religious beliefs and that
name-calling must be stopped. However, the prohibition on name-calling
excluded such labels as “radical right,” “religious right” and “right
wing” which were frequently used as pejorative labels for those who
oppose homosexual activism in schools.

NEA stands with GLSEN

National Education Association President Robert F. Chase gave the
keynote address at the GLSEN conference on Saturday morning. Chase’s
remarks were preceded by introductions from GLSEN director of public
policy M.K. Cullen and GLSEN Executive Director Kevin Jennings, who said
there are now over 700 GSAs “in high schools and middle schools today.”

Cullen criticized a ballot measure in Oregon called the Student
Protection Act that would ban the promotion of homosexuality in
schools. She derided the ballot initiative, led by Lon Mabon of the
Oregon Citizens Alliance, as “anti-gay.” At the mention of Mabon’s
name, several audience members hissed.

Jennings reminisced about the birth of the first GSA in 1989 and
lauded Chase as “the voice in American education today.”
Referring to a campaign launched earlier that week by the Family
Research Council, urging members to write Chase to discourage him from
attending the conference, Jennings said, “Bob Chase laughed and said, ‘I
am happy they are coming after me.'” He added that Chase had approached
GLSEN to be invited to speak and quoted him as saying, “I have a
platform and I am going to send an unequivocal message.”

Chase began his speech by referring to the Family Research Council
campaign and read several e-mails he had received from NEA members. He
said the letters represent “the attitudes, fears and misconceptions that
some of our members have.” Chase insisted, “I am here today precisely
out of concern for the children our members teach. The NEA does not have
what the right wing has branded a quote ‘radical pro-homosexual agenda.’
Rather, we have a radical civil rights agenda … a pro-human agenda.

“This is not some special interest or radical agenda I’m talking
about,” he said. “It’s not about promoting unsafe and abhorrent
lifestyles, but protecting [against] abhorrent behaviors. It’s not a
matter of recruiting gay or lesbian teachers, but of retaining them.
It’s simply a matter of protecting all children and all school
employees.”

Chase concluded, “It is an education issue, no matter what the
e-mails say, or no matter what the Family Research Council says.”

Related stories:


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Inside homosexual journalists’ conference


Public employees teach kids ‘gay’ sex


State condemns ‘gay’ sex discussion


‘Gay’ sex gag order amended




Allyson Smith
is a freelance reporter based in San Diego.

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